By Sumeet Mehta Co-founder and CEO, LEAD School.
When I think of parents, one word immediately comes to mind: Unbridled Love..
Parents will go to any lengths, even to the extent of giving up on their own dreams, for the wellbeing and happiness of their children. The sacrifices that begin at child birth continue long after the children grow into responsible adults, leave the nest and build their own. As a parent, I can see why. There is no yardstick to measure the love and caring for our children. They are our joy, they are our world.
As someone has said, parenting may be the hardest thing you do, but it is also the most rewarding. That is so true. I doff my hat to every mom and dad – the first role models. And I say to them with not a little pride, “Well done!”
Parenting involves fostering as well as shouldering responsibilities and facing difficulties. Perhaps, no event in recent history has had a more profound effect on parents than the current pandemic. It has, in a matter of days and weeks, confined parents and children to their homes. It has forced parents – breadwinners and homemakers – to alter their lives and lifestyles in the larger interests of the family.
In many ways, the lockdown has redefined the parent-child relationship. This is nowhere more evident than in children’s education where home-schooling has taken on a new meaning. Parents, along with educators, have been quick to substitute physical school based learning for virtual or online learning. Most schools had commenced online classes even as I was writing this tribute to parents.
Online learning has not been without its share of problems.
Following pay cuts and job losses, parents have been protesting against fees, demanding that schools either defer or lower the fees that include admission, tuition, examination and sundry expenses. On the other hand, schools need parents to pay fees to continue paying their teachers and to deliver quality online education. While no one solution will satisfy both sides, I believe parents and schools need to arrive at a consensus in the interests of the students. Empathy and reciprocity are the need of the hour.
The other issue is screen time. How much exposure to laptops and smartphones is good for students? This will depend on the age of the students, whether they belong to primary or secondary level, and the curriculum. Generally, the younger a student is, the lesser the screen time. Besides, with children restricted to their homes, parents are having a hard time monitoring the time they spend in front of computer screens.
I am surprised that parents, in some parts of the country, have sought a ban on online learning. This is not the right approach as children’s education will suffer in the absence of physical schools. Instead, parents should follow guidelines on real-time online classes issued by the government and the World Health Organisation. Parents can also opt for a mix of online lectures and student-centric activities or synchronous small-group sessions and asynchronous classes.
In my opinion, a ban on online learning will only mean replacing ‘good screen time’ with ‘bad screen time’, which is exactly what parents do not want for their children who will spend more time in front of the TV or play games on mobile phones.
As parents, we must encourage our children to follow a routine where they divide their time between online learning and homework on one hand and leisure and family time on the other. The lockdown is also a good time for parents and children to engage in extracurricular activities similar to those in school. This can include reading, art and craft, music, games and puzzles, and yoga or exercise. These are fundamental to the all-round growth and development of children.
Just as the parent-child relationship is important, so is the one between teachers and students.
Here, we would do well to inculcate in our children the Sanskrit verse from the Taittiriya Upanishad – “Matru devo bhava, Pitru devo bhava, Acharya devo bhava, Atithi devo bhava.” It means we must regard our mother and father, our teacher, and our guest as forms of God. I say this because teachers are frequently pulled up for correcting or disciplining unruly students in school. I’m shocked to hear that they now have to put up with misbehaving students even in online classes.
As parents, it is our moral duty to teach our children that their teachers are only next to their parents, worthy of equal respect and honour.
The present situation gives parents, schools and teachers a never-before opportunity for collaboration in online and offline education so that when the pandemic is over and schools reopen, we are ready to welcome students and offer them the best of learning outcomes and performance.
I am confident that we, the real superheroes, will only be too happy to pass this test because we are doing it for the ones we love the most – our children.